Quickly Improve Your Communication Skills with 17 Tips From Carl Franklin Braun
Pittsburgh police officers are planning on boycotting Beyoncé’s concert this month, and I can’t believe these cops actually believe it’ll end well for them.
Think about it: a black artist whose new single, “Formation” includes a heavy amount of “Black Lives Matter” and policy brutality imagery in it. Now throw in some cops, the majority of which are white males, who aren’t too keen on her message.
What do you think the outcome of this is going to be?
Do you think the boycott will result in any positive press or recognition for the Pittsburgh police involved?
I’m gonna go with no.
And here’s why…
The way they’ve chosen to communicate their “grievances” is flawed. It’s one of the worst avenues of communication. It’s aggressive, confrontational, and reactionary.
They’re also falling right into the hands of Beyoncé. White male cops having it out for a black female artist.
This reminds me of one of Carl Franklin Braun’s points on communication about prejudice. I’m sure you’ve all encountered someone who’s out to prove someone else wrong. They don’t just state the facts, they fashion them into a club with which to beat the wrongdoer. This person, in their heightened state of crusading, pushed others away. He was too intense. He didn’t state his facts clearly and calmly.
Now I’m not saying these Pittsburgh cops are “too intense.” What I am saying is this…
Your views are important, but how you communicate those views is even more important.
Politics is a competition between who can craft their message and sell it the best. Communication is inherently a part of that.
I think Carl Braun has some good pointers for us in that regard.
Braun was a petrochemical businessman who built his engineering company up to 6,000 employees. His company produced and engineered products ranging from water filters to petroleum processing plants. But what he was best known for was his unique corporate policy on proper communication inside the business.
His seventeen points on communication can easily be transferred to the political arena.
Note: all quotes are from his book, “Fair Thought and Speech” unless otherwise attributed.
Carl Franklin Braun’s 17 Points on Proper Communication
Don’t Turn Your Opponent Into the Enemy
“No matter how clear and fair a case may seem to us, somebody is apt to disagree. And this is good, for we need the stimulation of disagreement. Let’s question his information, his reasoning, his conclusions — but never his motives. If we start assuming or imputing ill motives, we lose all chance of influencing our listener. But even worse, we degrade ourselves.”
You might disagree with democrats on numerous issues. And that’s fine. Disagreement is natural. However, be careful not to assume negative motives for why they believe what they do.
Democrats and liberals don’t want to enslave Americans under a welfare state. Such fantasy only hurts your chances of being taken seriously and convincing them you’re right.
Remind, Don’t Tell
“Even if we are sure somebody had overlooked a bet, or is overlooking it, let’s tender our advice as though we are reminding him of something that he had intended to do, but that something else has crowded out. Let’s lean over backwards in giving to others the credit for ideas. This is the generous thing. It’s the thing that wins respect, both for us and for our ideas.”
Don’t resort to telling someone what to do and not do. Coming across as forceful or “my way or the highway” will only push them away.
Instead, rephrase it.
Depending on the situation, you could rephrase it to relate better to their outlook, situation in life, past experiences, etc.
Don’t Cover Up Error, Utilize it to Improve
“But let’s never, never, cover up error with the misguided thought that we must protect someone — either our brother, or our department, or our own pet ego. The recognition of error and its examination, if openly talked of, is a sure way to avoid its being repeated, either by the same man or by others. Everyone errs at one time or another. The Company pays for it. Okay. But the Company should not have to pay twice. Nor should other men be denied the benefit of warning-signs.”
Learn from your errors in conversations, whether it’s that you got a fact wrong, accidentally pissed off someone, got too emotionally engaged, or devolved into petty arguing.
This also applies to your outreach and activist efforts. Don’t keep repeating the same tactics over and over again expecting different results. Help improve other’s efforts.
Make Your Intentions Clear
“In all this matter of respect for others, of consideration, tolerance, interest, it is not enough that we feel these things. They cannot be effective if we carry them about locked up within us. We must plainly show them in word, in expression, in countenance, in bearing, in act. We cannot help others, encourage them, or be understood by them, or get willing help from them, if we leave them to guess at our thoughts and intentions.”
You want to have a worthwhile conversation? Align your behavior, body language, rhetoric, and tone to communicate that you want to converse, not debate.
If you want to encourage discussion and understanding, you’ll need to make that clear.
This also goes for messaging. Make sure your audience can’t impute “ill motives.”
Invite Acceptance, Don’t Push for it (i.e. Be Humble)
“If we want our opinions or beliefs to be accepted, the worst thing that we can do is to press too hard for them, or to make a personal issue of them. Better not crowd for acceptance, but rather invite it. Better tender our advice with a softening It seems to me. Or an It appears. Or a Perhaps. Or with some similar concession to the ideas of our listener. True, there are times when we must speak as authorities in no uncertain terms. Even then, reasonable humility is seldom amiss.”
Desperation isn’t attractive in others.
And saying your way is the best because “it’s the best” isn’t an argument.
As Braun puts it, humility is key to getting your ideas accepted. It shows you aren’t arrogant or a know-it-all, but instead have a vested interest in exchanging ideas and time with the person you’re speaking with.
Don’t Impose Your Beliefs
“If we want to observe how others feel about being rushed, or crowded, or pushed into a corner, just look at a pet of any kind, or at a child. Try to make friends with one of these by being forceful, abrupt, intense. The child will run. The dog will bristle. The cat will jump up on a rafter. Better place yourself or your wares where they can be seen. Then lay off. Give interest, curiosity, and natural friendliness, a chance to work.”
Forceful convincing always backfires sooner or later.
Don’t push people into a corner. Don’t aim at breaking their views down. Don’t rush to communicate your beliefs.
These things take time.
Don’t Blame Others for Your Loss
“And when we do give assent (to others), let’s give it cheerfully. No moaning because we lost out. No suggesting that other people are unreasonable, or that they do not understand us. No intimating that we are merely out-argued. We had our fair chance to speak up like a man. No hinting, then, that we merely bow to higher authority. We must all bow to higher authority — to weightier considerations perhaps, or to expediency, or to public opinion, or to our client. If we are stiff-necked about it, we are on the road to ruin.”
Your message, and how you craft it, share it, and utilize it, is dependent on you, and you alone.
Not everyone will accept your ideas. Even the best of messages never converts everyone. You can always improve your message.
Accept this and realize when it was your fault (for either engaging the wrong person, or using the wrong message).
Avoid Pointing Fingers, Opting Instead for Suggesting Fixes
“Some men have an irresistible desire to justify their every action. Some like to magnify themselves. Others like to provide an alibi ready for use if needed. Some, perhaps, just don’t think. In any event, they write a letter to some other department or to the boss. The letter first tells how much the writer or his group are doing. Then it puts the finger on others. Just write a few letters like this with plenty of copies sent around, and you’ll dig a grave you’ll never get out of.”
Nothing like making your party look great by painting the other party as incompetent losers.
In politics, the blame is never, ever, ever, ever ,ever one sided. Remove your self-righteousness and get to work proposing fixes.
Doing What “Worked for Them”
“We have all been approached at some time or other by the Unwise Citer. He asks us to take some action, or refrain from one, solely because certain other people have done so under supposedly like circumstances. The citer, lacking good arguments, has sought to substitute secondhand opinions. This is unfair. It is not helpful. And it directly assaults our ego. We are not given credit for having brains and judgment of our own. Bad stuff.”
Craft your opinions with hard facts and a few stories that can serve as metaphors. Never rely solely on what “you heard.” And please, never use stories as arguments.
Remember not to fall into the trap of historicism.
Out to Prove Someone Wrong
“We don’t have to use words, either, to be unfair. Did you have to sit in court and listen to a prejudiced witness? He’s too intense. He’s too vehement. Quite evidently, he’s not satisfied with stating the facts as he knows them. No, sir! He’s out to prove the other fellow wrong. Result — nobody pays attention to him. Well, let’s be sure when we sit around a conference-table, we’re not like him. Better state our facts clearly, or our views. But let’s not be too anxious. Let’s not try to push either judge or jury. It doesn’t work.”
Communicate your views with confidence and tranquility. Never come across as someone out on a personal crusade.
Correcting People When They’re Wrong
“We all know the chap who is quick to tell us when we are wrong. He probably doesn’t know too much about the subject himself, and hasn’t the confidence to take a positive position. His ego prods him into a negative one. He corrects us with great assurance on the tuning of radios, on the eating of spinach, on other matters of opinion. Let’s feel sorry for his difficulty with his ego. But let’s be sure first, that we’re not perhaps a wee bit like him. We always are.”
Refrain from questioning, attacking, or arguing every statement that you disagree or find fault in.
It’s not about how wrong they are and how right you are. It’s about them taking you seriously so they can then accept your point of view.
Don’t Be Nit-Picky
“A somewhat more subtle form of negation, is refinement of measurement. One man says that a tank weights ninety tons. And for that particular discussion, accuracy is of no consequence. Yet someone’s ego speaks up and says, Ninety-two tons. Maybe he’s right at that. But he’s wrong just the same. […] This is a favorite husband-and-wife game. Let’s be on guard against it.”
Be nit-picky with your message and how it comes across to people. But don’t be that guy who feels the need to correct every little micro-error he comes across.
I think Braun’s example is evidence enough of what to avoid.
“I Intended to Do That Tomorrow”
“One irritating form of pretending is that of claiming priority. Someone suggests a desirable precaution, or action, or change. Up jumps our ego. We had thought of that, we say. We’d intended to do it tomorrow. Maybe we had. Maybe we hadn’t, though — for our imagination at times plays strange tricks on us. In any event, we didn’t come up with it first. We’d better keep quiet, or we’ll surely be suspected of bluffing.”
This applies generally, but is still worth following.
When someone suggest a plan of action, don’t jump up exclaiming how you were just about to do that. Take the suggestion or plan and go with it if you agree.
“Here is an easy trap to fall into. Someone comes out with an idea. It sounds good to us. Our ego grabs hold of it, dresses it in slightly different language, and puts the idea out as our own. We act as though we’d independently arrived at the same conclusion. Maybe so, maybe not — for we cannot trust our memories as to when we first thought a thing, or what it was that started the train of thought. Let’s restrain our egos from grabbing credit. All we wind up with is discredit.”
The internet makes it easy to avoid giving credit where credit’s due.
Most of the time we know which ideas didn’t naturally originate in our minds. Give credit in your outreach efforts and discussions.
Say “I don’t Know” More Often
“The worst trick our ego can play on us, is to demand that we know everything. Let’s discipline ourselves until it’s easy to say, I don’t know. And let’s keep out of discussions when they’re on subjects outside of our recognized sphere. Our lack of real knowledge and experience is bound to display itself, and bring resentment from those who are really qualified to speak. Let’s slap our ego down whenever it starts laying claim to knowledge that’s too various.”
I’m just going to let that stand alone.
Don’t Overdress the Message
“Another thing. Don’t beg. People don’t like it. If then we speak up for some better job that’s open, let’s not till our talk with such words as hoping, thanking, eagerly, favor. If we are really worthy of the job, the Company will benefit by giving it to us every bit as much as we will profit by getting it. The thing works both ways. Why then use begging words that suggest we are thinking of ourselves, not of the Company? And why suggest that we’re not too confident in our ability?”
Applying this to political outreach…don’t overdress the message, don’t beg for support.
Don’t overdress your message with platitudes, pandering, and buzzwords. Overkill applies to outreach, and it looks nasty.
Present your beliefs, facts, and stories alongside well-intentioned questions. If they don’t accept, it’s ok. You won’t die.
You’re Not 100% Right
“With our eye on our brother’s ego, we’ll see that concession is the very cornerstone of good human relations. We cannot reach human agreements without mutual concession. The self-respect that every man feels impelled to maintain, demands that he appear at least partly right. Therefore, let’s not ever try to prove anyone wholly wrong. Let’s find something herein we can feel that he’s right. Then let’s say so. We simply must not build up our own ego at any unnecessary expense of our brother’s ego. Let’s keep an eye on concession.”
If you can’t win them over, find the middle ground.
Don’t assume they’re completely wrong.
Find common ground.
Communicate your beliefs to win and influence others, not to stroke your ego.